Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has pledged to fund the wages of more than 100 apprentices to encourage businesses to offer employment to more 16-20-year-olds as part of their coronavirus response.
Mayor Houchen is to provide almost £1 million to create new apprenticeships for young people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool in a bid to reverse the dramatic decline in apprenticeship creation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The money will be used to fund 100% of the apprentices’ wages in their first six months of employment, and 50% for the remainder of the apprenticeship, up to a maximum of two years.
This will provide an incentive to businesses and sectors which have been worst hit by the coronavirus to create at least 100 new apprenticeships for 16-20-year-olds, and it will also boost youth employment across the Tees Valley, in particular helping those who are not currently in education, employment or training.
A recent survey for the Tees Valley Combined Authority found 69 per cent of business who responded stated that they had furloughed apprentices and 35% said they could no longer commit to employing an apprentice.
Businesses who sign up to the scheme will also be asked to pay the national minimum wage, rather than the national apprenticeship wage, where applicable, and the apprentices will also be employed for a minimum of 30 hours a week.
Mayor Houchen said: “The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for businesses and local workers. As part of my plan for jobs, we need to make sure that our young people who are part way through an apprenticeship can continue with the qualifications, which will help them for the rest of their lives.
“Unfortunately, many businesses are now reluctant to commit to offering apprenticeships to young people because of the uncertainty they are currently experiencing and as part of my plan to create local jobs for local people, I’m going to change this.
“By offering almost £1 million and funding the salaries of more than 100 apprenticeships, we can make sure that our talented young people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool are getting the good high skilled, good quality jobs they deserve and are starting off on the road to a successful career.
“The financial support the government has offered to businesses throughout this pandemic has been unprecedented, whether it through the Job Retention Scheme or the support for the self-employed, and it is only right we do our bit locally and offer financial help to the businesses that need it where I can.
“I have allocated £19 million to raise skills levels, produce the skilled workforce that businesses need and to support the creation of apprenticeships across the Tees Valley, but this is an immediate commitment to help businesses and local workers at a time when they need it more than ever.
“This has been a difficult time for everybody, but we need to make sure our young people in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool are equipped to fill the skills gap which many businesses are crying out for.
“They do not deserve to be disadvantaged because of the coronavirus– they are the workers of the future and we need to do all we can to support them.”
Businesses looking to register an interest in the new funding can do so by visiting www.teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/skills-employment/skills/apprenticeships